SOCIETY

The party hanger-on is an animal of the past

Despite the political turmoil in Greece right now, it seems that the traditional voter-clients of the country?s political parties — who can be spotted hanging around campaign tents and party offices around the country — have lost little of their fervor or their belief that their MP will help them out of a sticky situation.

?Some have the air of the old-style voter, who is basically offering his or her vote for sale,? a close associate of a well-known New Democracy MP told me as I made the rounds of various campaign stands in central Athens recently.

?They look like dazed chickens in search of any of their old supports,? said another acquaintance, a close aide of a PASOK candidate. ?I must admit that a lot of the PASOK lot who hung around here before the May 6 elections have now run off to SYRIZA?s offices,? he added.

According to another aide, who has observed the regulars over the years, ?the vote peddlars are mostly middle-aged or above, and the overwhelming majority are public servants who had linked their professional survival to the clientelist state. Many are women who recently took early retirement and have more free time on their hands. After all, who else would hang around here in the middle of the day? Do you know any private sector employees, businessmen or traders who can leave their jobs to go hang around a political office??

He also adds that ?they are uncomfortable in the knowledge that the good old days are over. Of course, when the opportunity arises, they will allow themselves to hope that the MP they voted for will help them out one way or another.?

One classic example, which I witnessed myself, was of a 50-something-year-old woman who rushed to grab the hand of the MP as he walked through foyer of his party offices.

?Congratulations. Good luck in the next elections. What are the polls showing?? she said as she deftly pulled her 18-year-old daughter closer to the politician.

?She just sat her university entrance exams for medical school,? the proud mother said. I couldn?t help but think that she was harboring some hope that one day soon the MP would pull some strings to find her daughter a job in the National Healthcare System.

?All the people who hang around political offices have one thing in common,? my ND acquaintance said. ?They are looking for ways to maintain the situation they once knew. It is amusing to see how shocked some appear to be by the fact that New Democracy?s biggest opponent right now is SYRIZA instead of PASOK.?

The PASOK aide admitted as much: ?Most of those who attend these campaign events have a conservative mentality; they are civil servants who have become accustomed to dealing with the two main parties that have dominated local politics since the late 1970s. They haven?t yet realized where PASOK stands right now and believe that after the May 6 elections time simply stopped for a bit but that things will return to normal soon.?

Another woman, again in her 50s, spoke to another lady of a similar age as they sat in the entrance of the PASOK MP?s office. ?Are the polls showing any sign of a reversal?? she asked, deep anxiety etched in her face.

I was interested to learn what was going on with the new kid on the block, SYRIZA.

?They hadn?t brought enough tables to the Koumoundourou headquarters and now they?re in trouble,? my PASOK acquaintance said, adding that other than the civil servants who tend to stick to any party that appears poised to take over, a lot of young people and unemployed have been visiting the offices of the leftist party.

?A lead in the polls is like a magnet for those who believe that the party is there to serve its voter-clients,? said the New Democracy aide.

?What they fail to see is that the fiscal crisis will kill any hopes of getting political favors,? added his PASOK counterpart.